Abnormal processing of emotional prosody in Williams syndrome: An event-related potentials study

Neuropsychophysiology Lab, CIPsi, School of Psychology, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal.
Research in developmental disabilities (Impact Factor: 4.41). 10/2010; 32(1):133-47. DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2010.09.011
Source: PubMed


Williams syndrome (WS), a neurodevelopmental genetic disorder due to a microdeletion in chromosome 7, is described as displaying an intriguing socio-cognitive phenotype. Deficits in prosody production and comprehension have been consistently reported in behavioral studies. It remains, however, to be clarified the neurobiological processes underlying prosody processing in WS. This study aimed at characterizing the electrophysiological response to neutral, happy, and angry prosody in WS, and examining if this response was dependent on the semantic content of the utterance. A group of 12 participants (5 female and 7 male), diagnosed with WS, with age range between 9 and 31 years, was compared with a group of typically developing participants, individually matched for chronological age, gender and laterality. After inspection of EEG artifacts, data from 9 participants with WS and 10 controls were included in ERP analyses. Participants were presented with neutral, positive and negative sentences, in two conditions: (1) with intelligible semantic and syntactic information; (2) with unintelligible semantic and syntactic information ('pure prosody' condition). They were asked to decide which emotion was underlying the auditory sentence. Atypical event-related potentials (ERP) components were related with prosodic processing (N100, P200, N300) in WS. In particular, reduced N100 was observed for prosody sentences with semantic content; more positive P200 for sentences with semantic content, in particular for happy and angry intonations; and reduced N300 for both types of sentence conditions. These findings suggest abnormalities in early auditory processing, indicating a bottom-up contribution to the impairment in emotional prosody processing and comprehension. Also, at least for N100 and P200, they suggest the top-down contributions of semantic processes in the sensory processing of speech. This study showed, for the first time, that abnormalities in ERP measures of early auditory processing in WS are also present during the processing of emotional vocal information. This may represent a physiological signature of underlying impaired on-line language and socio-emotional processing.

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Available from: Adriana Sampaio
    • "Although both studies therefore suggest a difficulty of regulating personal space, these two previous studies provide equivocal findings, which could be in part attributed to the different forms of assessment. A theoretically important developmental disorder, which features atypical social interactions and a lack of appropriate responsiveness to complex social stimuli, is Williams syndrome (WS; Pinheiro et al. 2011). WS is a rare genetic neuro-developmental disorder, affecting approximately 1 in 20,000 individuals (Korenberg et al. 2003). "
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    ABSTRACT: Interpersonal distance regulation is crucial for successful social interactions. We investigated personal space awareness in Williams syndrome (WS) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared to typical development. Parents reported that individuals with WS and ASD were significantly more likely than those developing typically to invade the personal space of others. WS individuals were reported to have the least awareness of the personal space boundaries of others. Despite the suggested opposing social profiles of WS and ASD, some similarities are present in the ability, or indeed inability, to regulate interpersonal distance during social interactions. Findings are discussed in relation to implications of atypical amygdala function, inhibitory control and anxiety on real-world behaviour for such socially vulnerable groups.
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    • "Taken together, this evidence may suggest relatively more competent affect processing in WS in contexts that are free of semantic/lexical interference. However, a recent ERP study using neutral, positive, and negative utterances with both intact and impoverished syntactic and semantic information reported abnormalities in all ERP components of interest linked to prosodic processing (N100, P200, and N300) in individuals with WS relative to TD controls (Pinheiro et al. 2011). This included diminished N100 for semantically intact emotional sentences, more positive N200 particularly for happy and angry semantically intact stimuli, and diminished N300 for both semantically intact and impoverished information. "
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    ABSTRACT: Compromised social-perceptual ability has been proposed to contribute to social dysfunction in neurodevelopmental disorders. While such impairments have been identified in Williams syndrome (WS), little is known about emotion processing in auditory and multisensory contexts. Employing a multidimensional approach, individuals with WS and typical development (TD) were tested for emotion identification across fearful, happy, and angry multisensory and unisensory face and voice stimuli. Autonomic responses were monitored in response to unimodal emotion. The WS group was administered an inventory of social functioning. Behaviorally, individuals with WS relative to TD demonstrated impaired processing of unimodal vocalizations and emotionally incongruent audiovisual compounds, reflecting a generalized deficit in social-auditory processing in WS. The TD group outperformed their counterparts with WS in identifying negative (fearful and angry) emotion, with similar between-group performance with happy stimuli. Mirroring this pattern, electrodermal activity (EDA) responses to the emotional content of the stimuli indicated that whereas those with WS showed the highest arousal to happy, and lowest arousal to fearful stimuli, the TD participants demonstrated the contrasting pattern. In WS, more normal social functioning was related to higher autonomic arousal to facial expressions. Implications for underlying neural architecture and emotional functions are discussed. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
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    • "All sentences had neutral semantic content (describing simple daily actions), similar syntactic structure (subject + verb + object) and length (4 words), and all started with a proper noun (50% a male noun and 50% a female noun). The emotional intonation of sentences was previously assessed in a validation study with 125 participants (Pinheiro et al., 2011). Only those sentences with an inter-rater agreement of at least 90% were selected for each prosody type (38 neutral, 38 happy and 38 angry). "
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    ABSTRACT: Recent studies have demonstrated the positive effects of musical training on the perception of vocally expressed emotion. This study investigated the effects of musical training on event-related potential (ERP) correlates of emotional prosody processing.Fourteen musicians and fourteen control subjects listened to 228 sentences with neutral semantic content, differing in prosody (one third with neutral, one third with happy and one third with angry intonation), with intelligible semantic content (semantic content condition – SCC) and unintelligible semantic content (pure prosody condition – PPC).Reduced P50 amplitude was found in musicians. A difference between SCC and PPC conditions was found in P50 and N100 amplitude in non-musicians only, and in P200 amplitude in musicians only. Furthermore, musicians were more accurate in recognizing angry prosody in PPC sentences.These findings suggest that auditory expertise characterizing extensive musical training may impact different stages of vocal emotional processing.
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